Spurs vs Man City is up next for us in the Premier League, so we scout how to combat Manuel Pellegrini’s team.
The offensive juggernaut that is Manchester City rolls up at White Hart Lane this weekend, but recently the wheels appear to be coming off.
The Citizens have struggled away from home, losing their last four away days to Liverpool, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Manchester United. What chance we can add to that streak in Spurs vs Man City on Sunday?
Where Man City concedes chances
Last season Manchester City powered their way to the title and the only real way to get at them was by attacking through their left back zone. Gael Clichy was susceptible to deft movement in-behind him, whilst Aleksander Kolorov was even more vulnerable when he surged forward on the attack.
This term, the problems for Man City have come right across the back line. Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna have both had up and down seasons at right back. Clichy and Kolorov are still vulnerable to runs in-behind over on the left. Add to this the troubles of Vincent Kompany that have seen him in and out of the lineup. Throw in Martin Demichelis, now looking every bit like the ageing 34 year old that he is, and the Citizens back four are not the strong unit of seasons past.
They’ve given up goals through each of these zones in their previous away matches.
Their last outing at Old Trafford saw Manchester United do to City what they have done to many other teams, including us, and abuse their right side. The Red Devils got Fellaini, Young and Blind all up and around Pablo Zabaleta and Jesus Navas to create all four of their goals.
The first was a cross that Ashley Young put in at the second time of asking. The second was another cross for Fellaini to out jump Gael Clichy at the back stick. The third saw Juan Mata run in-behind from Rooney’s pass beyond Zabaleta. The fourth arrived from Ashley Young being fouled out on this flank and the resulting free kick being swept in and headed home by Chris Smalling.
Manchester United really went after the right side of City’s defence, as they pressed, harried, won the ball back and then got it in-behind to cross or pull back.
It’s not just been Zabaleta’s side. What was once the stronghold of the City defence, the centre back zone, is now also looking increasingly porous. Kompany looks out of sorts, Mangala settling in to the speed and power of the Premier League and Demichelis past it.
Burnley exposed the centre of Man City’s defence in their 1-0 win at Turf Moor. They got in-behind in the left back zone to cross, but also created a number of chances through the centre.
This included the only goal of the game, which was won by Danny Ings as he got in-behind Gael Clichy. Martin Demichelis had no choice but to bring Ings down as he blew past him in the open field.
George Boyd would sweep the resulting free kick home, but it was created by getting at Demichelis in space. It’s not the first time we’ve seen his lack of speed and mobility exposed. Roberto Soldado got past him and was brought down to earn our penalty at the Etihad.
That game also saw us open up Man City’s centre back pairing to expose this season’s weakness. Soldado found a cutting Ryan Mason, who missed a glorious 1v1 chance against Joe Hart.
As you can see above, Man City’s back line often retreat and hold using the edge of the penalty area as a guide to play offside. Opposition teams are aware of this and can use it to fashion out chances for runners between the centre backs and through the inside channels.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City need to focus on swiftly breaking forward at speed. Performances like we saw against Chelsea and Arsenal where we quickly got beyond their midfield and on to their back four are called for here.
Pressing in wide areas
Man City’s recent away performances have also highlighted that teams who press against them in wide areas can have success.
Manchester United heavily attacking down the City right showed this up extremely well as they tried to outnumber on this side. This not only saw them create and fashion opportunities through overloads, but also lead to frequent ball recovery down this flank to hem Man City in.
In their 1-0 win at Turf Moor, Burnley went after the more traditionally weaker left side of Man City’s formation looking to pressure Gael Clichy as David Silva was drifting in-field.
Both teams had success in pressuring different sides of the Citizens’ formation. This is something Mauricio Pochettino needs to look at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City on Sunday.
Stopping City’s chance creation
Manchester City creates chance in two ways and it is up to us to stop them.
The first is by playing short, neat through balls in the channels for a runner to latch on to. This player can then either shoot or cut the ball back for a team mate.
Some good examples of this were in Man City’s last away match at Old Trafford. James Milner fed David Silva through the inside left channel between centre back and full back. The Spaniard then cut the ball back across goal for Sergio Aguero to tap in.
At the death, Frank Lampard found this same channel on the other side of the Man Utd defence to spring Pablo Zabaleta. The right back then pulled the ball back across for Aguero to get his second.
These short neat through passes are how Manchester City creates a vast number of their chances. The other way is by looking to send the ball quickly in-behind for the runs of Sergio Aguero. The Argentinean loves the ball to be played beyond the defence early for him to race on to.
We got a first hand lesson in this in Man City 4 Spurs 1 at the Etihad earlier this season where Aguero torched the much slower Federico Fazio and Younes Kaboul.
Teams that have had success against Manchester City do two things. They take away this space in-behind so that Aguero cannot open them up. They also defend narrow and close up the space to stop City’s midfielders, Silva especially, drifting between the lines. This was something we didn’t do at the Etihad as you can see on Aguero’s first goal from that game as Silva, Milner and Lampard occupy these pockets.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City should see the high defensive line from the Southampton game banished. So too should the ambling Federico Fazio who will be torched by Aguero’s pace. He had a tough time against him at the Etihad and was eventually sent off for his shirt pull on his compatriot.
Converting ‘big chances’
Opta defines a ‘big chance’ as “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range.”
Both teams have been giving up way too many of these this season for each manager to be comfortable with. We sit second in the table for frequent big chance offenders with 67. Man City are seventh with 54 allowed, which is not good for a team that was in fifteenth last season with just 50 given up for their entire title-winning campaign.
With Aguero and Kane leading the lines, the team that converts it’s ‘big chances’ will emerge victorious in Spurs vs Man City on Sunday.
Key Matchup: Sergio Aguero vs our right side
Sergio Aguero may have suffered a bit of a goal scoring dip of late, but he still remains the deadliest striker in the Premier League. Whilst the Argentinean loves to race in-behind high back lines, he also likes to pull out to his left, the right side of the defence, so that he can cut inside and shoot on his right foot.
The problem we have is that the right side of our defence is really struggling. With Kyle Walker out we are playing with a stand-in full back in either Vlad Chiriches or Eric Dier. This side of the back four also sees Federico Fazio at centre back. Our best defender, Jan Vertonghen, may be rushed in to emergency left back duty if Danny Rose cannot play, which then removes further cover from the middle.
Aguero had a field day in the match at the Etihad against Federico Fazio and Younes Kaboul, netting four goals. He also was on fire in Man City’s 5-1 win at the Lane last season’s before coming off injured. The key to stopping City will lie in how effective we are at containing him when he drifts out to the right side of our defence.
Spurs vs Man City outlook
This could well be an open and end-to-end game with both sides patched up and experiencing defensive difficulties.
The key choices of personnel will lie in the wide areas. Firstly in our attacking players to get runners beyond City’s full backs. And secondly, in the right back position to defend against Aguero when he pulls out to our right side.
Harry Kane should be looking to expose Martin Demichelis’ lack of speed and mobility.
Mauricio Pochettino has a Jekyll and Hyde record against Manchester City. On the road he has lost twice, both times by a 4-1 scoreline. On his turf it is different though, as he has a 3-1 win and a 1-1 draw in his two home encounters with them whilst at Southampton.
Spurs vs Man City prediction: Spurs 2-2 Man City.
Spurs vs Man City betting
I’m expecting an open game with plenty of goals. After successfully backing Eriksen and Chadli to score in our last two matches against Newcastle and Southampton respectively, this game should suit the Dane to net once more.
What’s your prediction?